Replace fear with faith: year abroad feature

We can look back on moments in life where fear has been dominant, taking hold of us completely. Fast-forward and we might look back on these moments with amusement and think about how far we have come. Well, this is exactly what I have done.

Applying for a University degree, I was put off studying a language because I was daunted by the idea of a year abroad, so I applied to study History. After spending a few months in Nancy on my gap-year, I gained a passion for the French language and culture. I begged the University to change my degree to French and History, burying away the thought of the looming year abroad. After all, it was two years away, which back then seemed like forever away. How wrong was I? My first two years of University passed by in the blink of an eye and now here I sit, at my desk, in Angers, France, writing this very article already seven months into my year abroad.

Year abroads are stereotyped as the best year of your life, filled with palm trees, sun, good times and a little bit of work here and there. Unfortunately, however, prancing on the beach, beer in one hand, snorkel in the other, (and of course posting these jaw-dropping photos all over social media) comes nowhere near to what I have been up to…

lesson 1: face what you fear, however big or small

I arrived in a small BNB in Angers at the end of September 2017 and needed to find a room for the rest of my placement. I had severe food poisoning on the first night and was bedridden in a stranger’s room. The determination I had for the search of a new apartment was gone. I finally hauled myself out of bed on the third day and embarked on the endless task of calling hostels. Making phone calls in French is something I had dreaded, but being desperate to find somewhere to live, I was forced into it. And, it was fine. So, first piece of advice: face what you fear, however big or small.

Settling into my new job as an English language assistant in two primary schools was interesting. The teachers gave me a typical French reception: a nonchalant bienvenue! In contrast, the children were ‘infatuated’ with their new English assistant, my lessons soon becoming the ‘highlight’ of some of their weeks. Trying to integrate into a teaching team that was slightly ignorant of the language barrier I faced, was tricky. This barrier, for a while, acted like a cage, restricting me from being the real chatterbox that I am, making me nervous and dependent on my ‘Word Reference’ app.

lesson 2: whatever you are doing, do it to the best of your ability

The more time and energy I put into my job, the more I got out of it and the more rewarding it became. Having to get up at 6 am everyday was not what I had expected, being far from the beaches and rays of sunshine that I had envisaged. However, aforementioned, the more time that I put into my job, the more I got out of it, and the feeling of dread at getting up every morning started to evaporate. So, that is my second piece of advice: whatever you are doing, do it to the best of your ability.

The notions of working life become charmingly habitual as you begin to find delight in the simplest of routines. For sure, it is a little less wacky than the good old Uni days, with the wild happenings of a Wednesday night. However, having a paycheck coming into my account each month and having the means to spend, is very satisfying.

lesson 3: wine and dine

I do not hesitate, nor hide the fact that I have been lunchtime drinking and spending too much of my monthly budget on a good bottle. We have thoroughly indulged in beer ‘tastings’. We also did one afternoon of wine tasting in La Petite Roche and got suitably sloshed, when in France, dare I say. Lesson number 3: wine and dine.

lesson 4: French tinder is good for making mates

French lovers I hear you say? Let’s get real. After a brief encounter, with a Frenchie, I decided that the French were too romantic for my taste. Walking through the streets of Angers, being serenaded by Italian opera, avoiding the stares of passers-by, I decided that I could not handle the cliché of romance here. Lesson 4: French tinder is good for making mates.

“A city that people rightly fantasize about”

I have enjoyed the occasional escape to Paris for weekend ‘getaways’. I love the buzz of the city, the glamour, the array of people, the architecture and all the super mignon little independents for just about everything. It is a city that people rightly fantasize about, a place of dreams, ‘When good Americans die, they go to Paris’, to quote Oscar Wilde. Le Caveau de la Huchette, situated in one of Paris’ oldest buildings, plays live jazz and swing all night long and is a wonderful night out, whilst the rooftop bars in Le Marais, ‘Le Perchoir’ have amazing views.

So, despite not having the best start, along the journey and with time, I began to gain confidence and complete independence. I have picked up new skills, met incredible friends, made magical memories (as cringe as it sounds), remembering a positive approach to life because let’s be honest, where is negativity going to get you?

So if you are considering spending time abroad, whether it be during University or after, I thoroughly recommend it.

Katie Raeburn

Featured image courtesy of Spiterman via Flickr. License here.

If you want to get involved with Impact, from writing about food to photographing science (why not), send us an email at and/or join our contributor’s group here.

Alternatively, keep up with all the latest via our Facebook and Instagram.

LifestylePlacesTravelTravel Tips

Leave a Reply